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    Columbia Campus
  Jun 12, 2024
2009-2010 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) 
2009-2010 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) [Archived Catalog]

Secondary Education, Ph.D.

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Admission Department of Instruction and Teacher Education 
Degree Requirements College of Education 

The Ph.D. degree prepares students for positions in higher education, schools, and agencies. Specializations in a variety of subject areas are available.


Successful completion of the following requirements, in addition to The Graduate School’s application requirements, recommends the candidate for admission to pursue graduate study leading to the qualifying examination for the Ph.D. degree in secondary education:

  • submission of a letter of intent outlining a. professional background; b. professional goals; c. research interests
  • minimum of two years and expectation of five years teaching experience or equivalent
  • satisfactory review of total academic/experiential profile
  • any additional requirements stipulated by a particular program area.

After approval of an advisor by the secondary education program and approval of the applicant by the interview committee established by the advisor, the applicant may be admitted to take courses leading to the qualifying examination.

Admission to candidacy occurs upon satisfactory completion of the qualifying examination and submission of a letter from a qualified faculty member indicating a willingness to serve as the applicant’s advisor.

Degree Requirements

Advisor and Foundation Courses

The student will select and have appointed a program advisor no later than the end of the first semester of graduate work beyond the master’s degree. Upon admission, the candidate must complete or have completed 15 semester hours in educational foundations, one from each of the following five areas:

Qualifying (Admission-to-Candidacy) Examination

During the second semester of graduate work toward the doctorate (after 12 to 15 semester hours to be taken at USC beyond the master’s degree), the candidate will apply to take the doctoral qualifying examination.

To be eligible to take the Ph.D. qualifying examination, a candidate must:

  • be admitted as a degree candidate
  • have completed 30 semester hours with a B average or better
  • have at least 12 semester hours at the 700 and/or 800 levels in the USC College of Education.

Admission to candidacy is valid for only three years beyond the last USC enrollment. Thereafter, the candidate must reapply for admission to degree candidacy under criteria in effect at the time of application.

Doctoral Committees

Upon admission to candidacy, the candidate may form the four-member doctoral committees:

  • Program Advisory Committee
  • Oral Comprehensive Examination Committee
  • Dissertation Committee and Dissertation Defense Committee.

The candidate is responsible for securing a faculty sponsor from the major area of secondary education to serve as committees’ chair. Additional committee members must include a faculty member from the College of Education (but outside the candidate’s major area) and a faculty member from outside the College of Education (dictated by the candidate’s cognate or other area of specialization outside of education). It is recommended that the fourth member be from the Department of Instruction and Teacher Education.

Program of Study

A typical doctoral degree program consists of 90 credit hours including hours completed in a master’s program and dissertation preparation hours, the last 30 of which must be completed no more than eight years prior to graduation.

The candidate is required to complete a minimum of 36 credit hours in a major specialty area, which includes 9 credit hours of course work in an area of emphasis within the College of Education but outside this major area of emphasis. The area will be designated as the “inside cognate.” Foundation courses taken prior to the qualifying examination but after the master’s degree may count toward the major specialty area.

The candidate is expected to have the equivalent of a master’s degree in a content area that includes at least 15 credit hours of study in an area outside of the College of Education to be designated the “outside cognate.”

The candidate is also required to enroll in a minimum of 12 credit hours in EDTE 899 Dissertation Preparation. EDRM 897 may be substituted for 3 of those hours. A maximum of 6 credit hours of EDUC 600-level courses may be part of a graduate degree program of study, provided that the assigned advisor approves the inclusion of such courses.

Comprehensive Examination

The candidate is required to take a 9-12 hour written examination and a 1-2 hour oral examination. The oral examination shall be administered by the Oral Comprehensive Examination Committee within one month of completion of the written examination. Application to take the comprehensive examinations must be made via a letter with the candidate’s dissertation chair.


Specific guidelines regarding the dissertation (including the proposal, work with committee members, approvals, and the oral defense) should be thoroughly read by students and are available at or the Secondary Education Office, Wardlaw 216.

Language/Research Tool Requirement

The applicant must have a reading knowledge of one foreign language or an approved alternative.

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